The Long Road to Tacloban

Rappler has set up a base in Tacloban to gather stories in Leyte and Eastern Samar, especially in the towns and villages that sufficient aid and most media have yet to reach.

On November 14, they set out for Tacloban – by land – from our headquarters in Pasig City. The 36-hour trip took them through the provinces most heavily devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Here, they shared with us what they saw along the way, capturing images of destruction and despair, narrating stories of anguish, hope, and heroism.

Their journey continues. They are finding people. The stories keep coming. Their and these people's voices are here.

Follow them.


Patricia Evangelista
Multimedia Reporter
Out trucking
Patricia Evangelista
Tacloban City November 20, 2013 9:02pm

The children of Village 83 point to the center of the bay, right where the sunlight shoots sharp off the steel edges of half sunken container trucks.

There are men out there, say the children.

This is Tacloban, where the stories read like fiction. It is possible the men are still there, still on duty, in the cabs of trucks, on the driver's seats, fisted hands still on steering wheels, blind to the bodies floating outside.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Leaving Tacloban
Bea Cupin
Tacloban November 23, 2013 1:54pm


Zak and I are saying goodbye to Tacloban. For now, at least. Kuya Roque, Lito, Arnold, Jorge are on their way back via Allen, while Paterno, Patricia, and Naoki stay behind.

There are no words to describe what the past week has been like.

Haiyan took away so much, too much, from the Visayas. It will take a long time before life will go back to normal. It will take a long time before normal can even be a tangible thing.

But after meeting survivors who smile despite losing everything, aid groups that continue to come in despite the conditions, and the volunteers who give their all to help strangers, I can't help but feel that there is hope and we will prevail...as we always do.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Entering the Sushi
Bea Cupin
Tacloban November 23, 2013 12:58pm


Survivors of Haiyan enter a Japanese C130 bound for Manila. The Japanese operating the plane tell me at least 80 evacuees can fit inside the cargo plane.

Patricia Evangelista
Multimedia Reporter
A candle on a trench
Patricia Evangelista
Tacloban City November 20, 2013 9:02pm


The bodies are piling up. Tacloban, Tanauan, Palo, village after broken village.

We are told there are none left, the streets appear clear of everything but debris, until the corpse truck trundles down the road, the men in masks and gloves trudging into side streets and alleyways, coming out in pairs hoisting white Red Cross body bags. Sometimes the bags are laid out on the road, unzipped, checked, marked with felt pens.

The journalists follow the trucks, foreigners with tripods and fluffy boom mikes. Sometimes it is old women who follow, hanging on from the backs of motorbikes.

Their sons are inside, they say. They want to know where to pray.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Kids being kids in Tacloban
Bea Cupin
Tacloban November 20, 2013 8:41pm

It will take a long time before life goes back to normal here in Tacloban City. So seeing children playing around is always a good thing – even if I almost got hit by a rogue ping pong ball today.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
The Olenos are homeless, but they're alive
Bea Cupin
Tacloban City November 20, 2013 3:57pm

Helen Oleno, her husband Antonio Oleno and their children Alma and Lisa of Barangay 83-A in Tacloban City are all homeless, but alive.

If you know Gina Igunio, Milette Cabias, or Emmelita Monterey, please let them know.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
What happens when you bring a camera out
Bea Cupin
Tacloban City November 20, 2013 3:57pm

Met a group of very cheery kids at Brgy 83-C, Tacloban City. "Video pa!"

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Waray
Zak Yuson
Brgy 93, Tacloban City November 20, 2013 12:35pm

Waray means none or nothing, but Waray-Waray refers to the language and the people who speak it.

This was a quick lesson I got today from a resident of Barangay 93 in Tacloban City as we walked around what was left of the low-lying community.

Barangay 93 is sprawled across the national highway, located just 10 minutes away from the famous San Juanico Bridge. When Yolanda struck, the part below the highway was almost completely washed out by a 3-storey high wall of water.

Many of its residents were left with nothing. The evacuees are living in the elementary school, too afraid to go back to their homes. Except for one grandmother who has returned with her husband and grandchildren. They've built a small hut out of materials they could find. The children's mother is working in Manila. There are 3 of them and they all like going to school. But they'll have to wait as classes won't begin until January.

When asked why she chose to return she said, "eh wala naman kaming ibang pupuntahan," (We have nowhere else to go.) This is the reality for many like her who have begun to rebuild what is left of their lives in the same place where it was almost taken away from them.

Call it foolish, call it resilience, but don't ever call it the end. Life goes on for the Waray who have given meaning to making something from nothing.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
No Tagalog? No problem
Bea Cupin
Tacloban November 18, 2013 8:05pm


They don't speak Tagalog or Waray. Some of them can't speak English. But laughter and balloons (even ones made out of gloves) are a universal language.

Meet these French firemen from APPUI. They're here to help in rescue and relief operations, and to give medical attention to victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Two doctors, 2 nurses, and 6 fire fighters.

Photo by Jake Versoza for Rappler.

Jake Verzosa
Photographer
Photos from Tacloban
Jake Verzosa
Tacloban November 18, 2013 7:26pm


A boy takes a bath on a hot day in V & G Subdivision. Tacloban City, Leyte


Residents of Anibong bring some supplies back to their devastated homes after a ship wrecked this coastal barangay. Tacloban City, Leyte.


I saw this random image of Manny Pacquiao on the way to the airport this morning. I hope people can watch his fight next week.

Patricia Evangelista
Multimedia Reporter
The Panda is Drowning
Patricia Evangelista
Tacloban City November 18, 2013 8:26am


The back of a red car juts out of a shattered house. There is a boat stalled on the road across the city hall. A plastic panda floats in the water, right outside a field of corpses.

This is Tacloban. On the day after Yolanda, there were bodies found in backyards leaning on refrigerators, inside houses jammed behind closets, in bathrooms and bedrooms and on the edges of the airport road wrapped in Rainbow Brite bed sheets. There is no room for imagination or exaggeration here. All the narrative rules are broken, every comforting truth is suspended.

Somewhere else, there may be some sort of ironic value to the image of a waiting shed painted with an "I love Tacloban" sign just above the body lying on a bench with a foot sticking out of a body bag, but here it is difficult to see what it is.

This is where a general picked up the corpse of his dead soldier and carried him to the city, where a pregnant woman found herself jammed against a wall with a log under her belly, where it is normal to be asked for directions to the nearest pile of cadavers by a boy looking for his brother.

There are no words big enough to describe what is happening here. This is Haiti. This is Katrina. This is the Book of Revelations. Bang the drums for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. For tens of thousands of people, the world as they knew it ended in the morning of November 8, 2013, and they know the resurrection will be a long time coming.

Tonight the moon is high. In two days it will disappear, and locals dread the night when everything will go black. This is the place where old ladies sleep beside butcher knives, where diesel is traded for cars, and where, out in the dark, out where the trucks pick up corpses, a panda drowns in the water.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Recharge
Zak Yuson
Tacloban City November 17, 2013 11:59am

“Pwedeng maki-charge?”

It’s a question we often get asked here at Rappler’s base camp in Tacloban - an inadvertent result of having a generator running night and day. People come prepared, some with more than one phone, others with extension cords to accommodate more extension cords. In a few minutes, the electric chain grows longer and longer. Along with the cellphones, people come with stories–and we’ve been hearing a lot of interesting stories at the “Rappler charging station.”

There was the Atar couple who, despite living in one of the hardest hit barangays in Tacloban, managed to weather the Typhoon with only a damaged roof. Bernard Atar was supposed to be at work as a waiter on an international cruise ship. He decided to take a leave so he could make sure his wife and kids were properly resettled. The air in their barangay smelled foul, he told me. It’s not healthy for the kids.

There were some who came with no phones at all. Bryan Arteche came with his friend Christopher Fabi. Bryan wanted to send an email to his grandparents who had survived the storm surge. He didn’t know if they were still in Tacloban or had found a flight back to the United States where they lived. After a quick email on my cellphone, the three of us started chatting about narrow escapes, losing everything, and starting anew. Here is their story:

Bryan’s lola emailed later to say they had safely reached Texas after boarding one of the C-130s to Cebu.

Tomorrow, we set up the plugs again, start the generator, and listen.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
The Balanos ask for help in Tanauan
Bea Cupin
Tanauan November 17, 2013 8:37pm


Corazon Balano, 56, and Maria Balano, 53, live to tell the story of how Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) destroyed Tanauan but they do not know how they will live.

A Rappler team was in Tanauan, Leyte, around an hour's drive away from Tacloban, one of the centers of relief and aid in the province. The two sisters approached the team, asking for help to contact relatives in manila and United States.

"Tulungan nila kami dahil nawalan kami ng bahay... walang natira sa bahay, kahit isang poste," said Corazon. (I hope they can help us because nothing's left of our home.)

The two sisters wanted their relatives to know that the entire family in Tanauan is alive. Hungry, but alive.

They were told to evacuate before the storm hit, but opted to stay because they wanted to make their household items would be safe. Corazon's children and grandchildren evacuated to a house farther from the coast. Maria, her husband and two children, stayed behind.

"Noong maano yung bahay namin, napunta kami [sa may puno], muntikan akong madala," said Maria. (When the storm surge destroyed our house, we were washed away to the tree in front of our house. I was almost carried away by the current.)

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Meet Michelle
Bea Cupin
Tanauan November 17, 2013 4:12pm

She doesn't really show it, but Michelle nearly drowned because of storm surges caused by Yolanda. Amazing how children can still manage to smile even after something as traumatizing as that.

She says she wants to go back to school.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Jorge and Roque
Zak Yuson
Tacloban City November 17, 2013 11:59am


Just two or our team members, Jorge & Roque. They can do anything!

Here they are fixing a bike donated by Patrick Co so the news team can monitor on two wheels.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Destruction and hope in Tanauan
Bea Cupin
Tanauan November 16, 2013 5:19pm


Tanauan, an hour's drive or so from Tacloban, is in ruins. Houses along the coast were devastated, as well as those in the inner part of the town. But residents of Barangay San Roque, which is right in front of the Leyte coast, are steadfast.

We met Barangay Captain Corazon dela Cruz, whose parents died during the storm surge, but soldiers on because her barangays needs her to. We met Joy Marabut, 8-months pregnant and her beautiful daughter Michelle. Joy lost one of her 3 girls to Yolanda.

Corazon wants the people of Barangay San Roque and the rest of the world to know that they will get through it, and that the bustling coastal town will rise again.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Far From Normal
Zak Yuson
Tacloban City November 16, 2013 10:32pm

We've tried to bring the semblance of a newsroom to Tacloban, complete with a satellite van and desk space to work on. Other press outfits have done the same, including several aid agencies (one group even provides free wifi).

But the reality is so far removed from what we are used to seeing or working with. Just 100 meters from where we are is the processing area for body bags before they are brought to the cemetery. The smell of decomposition permeates the air, particularly when the wind blows North, towards us. It's worse in the low lying areas where only the roads have been cleared of debris. It's hard to imagine just how high the water reached; and how much life it took away with it.

In our makeshift newsroom, the news comes to us. Marie Fidela Cabrera walked into our tent with a photo of her niece, 3-year old Leona Macey Escala Aguzar. Macey has been missing since Yolanda struck. She was running to higher ground with an older companion when the sea rose. Her grandparents made it ahead and survived. They are now in Manila. Macey's father flew in from Abu Dhabi to look for relatives. He is distraught and waits outside the main relief coordination building for any news. Fidela - it's her birthday today - told us that there is no one who can give them any real information on those who survived. There are lists for the dead and there are lists for the missing; but no lists for survivors. They are hoping they will see Macey's name there, if one exists. It's Fidela's birthday wish.

The President is arriving tomorrow. I hope he meets Macey's family and hears their story. That's the only comfort the living have in the absence of uncertainty.

If you have any information on Macey, please contact her grandfather: Rogelio Aguzar - 948-6383 / 0908-3220459

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Our headquarters at the Tacloban City Hall
Bea Cupin
Tacloban City November 15, 2013 5:19pm


Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Setting up in Tacloban
Zak Yuson
Tacloban City November 16, 2013 4:07pm


Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Now in Leyte
Bea Cupin
Leyte November 16, 2013 1:55pm

Isog ang mga Waray.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Checking in near Calbayog
Zak Yuson
Calbayog November 16, 2013 7:41am

Hello from Calbayog, about two hours away from Tacloban.

We also saw convoy of DOH and a mobile clinic, Taguig rescue, and DPWH. Calbayog looks like a normal city. Like nothing happened 2 hours away.

Rupert Ambil II
Systems, Editorial & Field
Departure from Allen Port
Rupert Ambil II
Allen Port November 16, 2013 5:30am


Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Remembering, forgetting Tacloban
Bea Cupin
November 15, 2013 9:47pm

This coverage is important to me because of two things. I know Yolanda will forever change the way our country and the rest of the world looks at disaster response and mitigation and climate change (for the better, I hope)...

And on a more personal note, this will be my first time in 10 years to stay in my mother's hometown, the city where I was born.

Thursday night I was restless, thinking about how Paterno and I would do victims and survivors of Yolanda, as well as the people working hard to restore normalcy, justice through our stories. At the same time, I struggled to piece together a picture of Tacloban from my childhood.

I still cannot wrap my head around what happened in Tacloban. What was once the idyllic coastal city of my childhood is now a war zone. Places that brought warm memories are now in shambles. The people of Tacloban, and every single area devastated by Yolanda don't deserve this. Nobody deserves this.

I do not speak Waray and can only understand parts of the dialect. But I do know that Waraynons are fighters. And I cling on to the hope that they will prevail. Because losing hope is not an option.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Breaking news... in the dark
Bea Cupin
Allen, Northern Samar November 15, 2013


That's Paterno preparing for a live phone patch inside our van slash Samar/Leyte news bureau. We're in Allen, Northern Samar.

Tomorrow we head to Tacloban.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Yolanda survivors: 3-week-old twins from Marabot
Bea Cupin
Camarines Sur November 15, 2013


At the Matnog Port we met 29-year-old Lorna Gaditano and her 3-week-old twins Andrew and Andre. The storm surge during Yolanda (Haiyan) engulfed their home in Brgy Binokyahan in Marabot, Western Samar. They had to rush to the nearby elementary school in the wee hours of the morning.

For days they survived on only rice and scraps of food to eat, they say aid and relief hasn't reached their town yet. When her breast milk ran dry, she had to feed the twins water. They're on their way to Manila now where they plan to stay for a while.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
DPWH trucks, backhoe bound for Tacloban
Bea Cupin
Matnog Port November 15, 2013 5:11pm


Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Pila
Zak Yuson
Irosin November 15, 2013 2:13pm

Long lines of trucks at Matnog ferry crossing.

People here say some trucks have waited for 2-3 days to get on a ferry. They are trucks with fuel, water, motorbikes, electric posts, and heavy equipmnent. There is another line of buses.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Lining up for a Ferry
Zak Yuson
Irosin November 15, 2013 2:13pm

We're going to take the ferry at Matnog to Allen in Northern Samar.

Paterno Esmaquel II
Multimedia Reporter
Prayer before meeting Haiyan's victims again
Paterno Esmaquel
Camarines Sur November 15, 2013

For the past 18 hours, we've been on the road to the port in Matnog, Sorsogon. From there we will go to Tacloban, one of the places hardest hit by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

I took this road two days ago, on the way back to Manila. I traveled with our cameraman, Franz Lopez, after being stranded in typhoon-hit Eastern Samar for 4 days.

We covered Borongan, Balangkayan, and Hernani in Eastern Samar. Because of Yolanda, we had no cellphone signals or Internet there. Isolated from the rest of the world, we saw almost nothing but tears, destruction, hunger, and death.



I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Manila, and am now coming back to the Visayas with a team composed of 9 Rappler colleagues.

Now we're covering Tacloban and surrounding areas.

I pray for the grace to help the people we meet.

I pray for the strength, intellect, and heart to do justice to their stories.

And I pray for stories that inspire and uplift, that bring hope and not only despair.

Please pray with us as we make this long journey. I hope we can help you, too, in any way.

Amen.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Pit Stop
Zak Yuson
Daraga, Albay November 15, 2013 11:25am

Loaded gasoline and water for the journey ahead. Rupert says the gasoline station is running on a generator. Looks like power will be a problem from here on in.
There are about 4-5 government checkpoints ahead to make sure only essential personnel get to proceed to Tacloban.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Near Mayon
Zak Yuson
Naga City November 15, 2013 8:06am

Near Mayon Volcano, a very active volcano. Residents of Albay are very aware of this danger. Local government really makes a difference in disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Breakfast
Zak Yuson
Naga City November 15, 2013 8:06am

Team having breakfast.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
Sunrises are awesome in CamSur
Bea Cupin
Camarines Sur November 15, 2013 5:30am

Nature's act of beauty. Hard to imagine how miles away in the Visayas, nature did the exact opposite.

If location services are right, we're somewhere in Ragay, Camarines Sur. Taken at around 5:30 in the morning.

At least 14 more hours to go.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Second Pit Stop
Zak Yuson
Gumaca, Quezon November 15, 2013 1:36am

Nestled between two bays (Lamon and Tayabas), Gumaca appears to me to be the narrowest part of Luzon. It's a strategic crossing point and our second pit stop.

I see a lot of buses pass by, many empty. I hear the government has a plan of bringing in buses to ferry out those who want to leave Tacloban and other devastated areas. But today, the empty buses aren't heading in the same direction we are.

We have 18 hours more to go.

Zak Yuson
Director, MovePH
Missing
Zak Yuson
C5, Taguig November 14, 2013

I've seen the videos and photos, heard the stories told and retold. Each tale is as heartbreaking or heartwarming as the next. For the most part, we've all coped in the newsroom by working harder, ignoring our own fatigue for the sake of getting the story told.

But now, I have a long pause ahead. Time to stop and think, and sleep.

I'm tagging along to help start an on-the-ground person finder initiative. We plan on taking photos of the survivors to let their relatives know they are okay. We hope that netizens can play a small part in getting these photos to their relatives looking for them on social media. If a single photo can link loved ones together, a thousand stories can be told.

Bea Cupin
Multimedia Reporter
The Long Road to Tacloban
Bea Cupin
Pasig City November 14, 2013

As the days go by, the extent of damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) becomes painfully clear – thousands dead, houses leveled, towns in ruins, survivors struggling to get by.

The Rappler team travels to the areas hardest hit by Yolanda – from Tacloban, the first hub of relief efforts, to other towns in Leyte and Samar in dire need of aid.

We leave Manila by land Thursday, November 14, and hope to reach Tacloban by Friday, November 15, a week after Yolanda unleashed its wrath on the Visayas.